Convocation Remarks by Eric Tanner ’11

Dartmouth College Convocation, September 21, 2010

Eric Tanner, Student Body President, Class of 2011

Thank you Dean Spears for that introduction.

President Kim, Provost Folt, faculty, staff, trustees, distinguished guests, members of G46 Harder Hiking, and fellow students.

Five years ago, Steve Jobs of Apple gave a commencement address where he spoke of “connecting the dots” in life.  Said Jobs, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backward.”

A few weeks ago as I drove up to campus, I found myself starting to connect the dots of my three years so far in this place, this College.

What were the reasons that I chose to come here?  How has my experience here differed from my friends at other schools?  Why did dancing the Salty Dog Rag on my freshman trip seem so normal?

And finally, what is it that brought each of you, the beautiful Class of 2014, here to the seats that you occupy today?

After three years of being on campus, I have realized that such a feeling of comfort here at Dartmouth does not come from any statistic or any blurb in the Fiske guide.  This comfort comes from the collective group that you have heard about and have now entered: the Dartmouth community.

I got that feeling in my gut when I toured this campus in 2006 that this was a community that I wanted to be a part of for four years.  Everyone I met seemed to treat each other with such kindness and respect, even if it was a lowly prospie like me.  As a hardened New Yorker, I wanted to – even for just four years – be a part of a community like that.

So here I am… and now here you are as well.  So I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome you to our community.

Let’s just start with one special number: 1,362.

Besides your class year of 2014 and your own student ID number, the number 1,362 may very well be the most important number for you here at Dartmouth. And why is that?

While I hope you realize that you are Dartmouth Green for life, most of you will graduate on Sunday, June 14, 2014.  That date is only 1,362 days from today.

Yeah, that’s messed up.

Your actual time here on this campus, in this community, as an undergraduate, with these people, is finite; and the clock starts ticking right now.

So how will you spend those days?

My advice to each of you is to completely immerse yourself into this dynamic community; experience the full spectrum of what it offers you; learn from your fellow students, from your professors, and from your own experiences.

From the camaraderie of reading period holed up in Baker-Berry, to the jubilation of a Dartmouth touchdown, to the calming joy of hour-long lunches in Homeplate, talking with the people you know will be your lifelong friends.

Look at the way you have interacted this past week during your orientation.

You might have become best friends with someone simply because you said how much you liked watching Jersey Shore and they invited you to watch it with them. Or maybe you saw someone at every academic open house you attended and you finally decided to strike up that conversation.

No matter how desperate or even forced it might feel, those little connections might in the end be the basis for one of the strongest friendships you will ever have.

Never lose that drive to keep building relationships.

Never lose that drive to keep building friendships.

Never lose that drive to keep connecting the dots.

Friendships are the way that we can connect more dots than we ever could on our own.

Friendships are the key to getting the most out of our Dartmouth experience.

From the first moment you reached Robo for your DOC trip until right now, you all have already gone out of your comfort zones and spent time with so many different people. You have already started building foundations for what might be unbreakable bonds.  The truth of the matter is that many of those links will get even stronger; however, some links might remain weak and fragile.  That does not mean, however, that they should be ignored completely.  If you see someone this winter who you met during orientation, but you haven’t spoken to since, say hi to them. You know they recognize you, and you certainly recognize them, so take the time to reach out and just say “hey.”  Make that effort to connect.  Make that extra effort to care.  Never, never, never lose that desperation to meet new people.

Always remember, that Dartmouth is such a tightly knit institution that any person, on any given day, has the chance to become an integral and vital part of your life, be it academic, social, or maybe even romantic.

It is my hope that over the past week you have begun to get that sense.  It is also my hope that you have done something to make someone else feel, deep down, like they belong here, too.

Being a senior now makes me appreciate this place even more because I have started to realize that this all won’t last.  I know that when I graduate, and my Blitz is deactivated, and my ID doesn’t pay for my meals anymore, I will look back and miss these days when I was constantly in the presence of people who were looking out for me, who wanted to get to know me, who wanted to make me feel included; and I can only wish the same for you.

While you become engrossed in your academic, social, and extracurricular life here, I hope you will take the time to appreciate what John Sloan Dickey wrote, and President Kim frequently alludes to as “the Sweetness of the Dartmouth community.”  I hope that over the next four years, you as a class will work to connect more dots around this campus and make our community feel more united and more welcoming than ever.

So, when you walk across the Green to graduate in just 1,362 days, how will you—as an individual member of your class—leave this community, much like a DOC campsite, better than you found it?

For me, that question remains unanswered.  Maybe you all can help me figure it out.  But I do know this:  When I graduate out on the Green in June, I will not think about the buildings, the food, or even the natural beauty that surrounds this place.  I will think of the people that make Dartmouth.

Said Steve Jobs, “You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Class of 2014, your future is now. Trust our Dartmouth community and start connecting the dots.

One last thought that I would like leave you with, this time from another giant of giants in the world of business and industry:  Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton regional manager Michael Scott.

Scott once said, “What is the single most important thing for a company?  Is it the building?  The stock?  The turnover?  No.  It's the people.”

Class of 2014, it’s the same thing here.

Welcome to Dartmouth.  Take care of our College.  Take care of yourself.  But most importantly…please take care of each other.

Thank you.